When I was growing up, we would decorate the house for Christmas, and many of the decorations had memories with them that my parents would share with my sister and me. We had a Nativity scene, we used the Advent candles as the centerpiece for our dining table, and each Sunday would like the appropriate ones and read a devotion. We also had advent calendars when I was young. Do you know about these? There is a picture on the front of two pieces of paper or tagboard, and little flaps or doors are cut into the front one, numbered for each day of Advent, Each day we children would open the door for the day, and there would be a short Bible verse relating to Jesus’ birth. We also had a children’s book about the birth of Jesus, which I loved. To be sure, my sister and I were counting down to presents first and foremost, but to me, even then, the birth of Jesus added a lot to the season.
In the week before Christmas, Mom would make several batches of different kinds of Christmas cookies and bars. My sister and I would decorate the cutout sugar cookies. On Christmas Eve, my maternal grandparents, the Freiberg’s would drive up from Storm Lake, bringing traditional German Christmas cookies. My Grandpa Freiberg was the youngest, and only one born in America in his family. His first language was Plattsdeutsch.
On Christmas eve we always went to church, which often had a live nativity scene for the service, and then Dad would drive us around our town of 2,000 people to see the Christmas lights on the houses. There were a couple of old Victorians that had their bric-a-brac highlighted with light strings. Someone always had St. Nicolas and his reindeer touching down on their roof, and one house on the north side of town had, and still has, home-made silhouettes of the Christmas story surrounding the house. They are very nicely done. When my grandparents were still alive, we would then after church, go to my Schaper grandparents home down the gravel road, sometimes along with the aunts,uncles and cousins from Colorado, and read Christmas stories to each other.
Once we visited the life-size nativity scene in neighboring Algona, Iowa, that was built by German P.O.W.s during the war (WWII). They had been ‘farmed out’ to farm families in the area to work as hired hands, replacing the men who had gone off to war, and they were very well-treated by the host families. In return, they built the Nativity scene as a gift. If you are ever that way during Advent, you should stop and see it. In later years, some of them would fly all the way from Germany to visit their host families.